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Product Data Management at a Fork in the Road

Today, product development technology stands at a fork in the
road between status quo and strategic serendipity. The status quo
is rooted in desktop processes, central storage, hierarchical
workflows, and data access. The path to strategic serendipity is
paved by new interrelationships of four existing technologies.
On-demand computation

You are likely familiar with the four:

Analytics (AKA big data)

On-demand insight

Mobile: On-demand

The smartphone in your pocket is the best example of how these

four technologieswhich we refer to by their acronym CAMS
used together can transform long-standing practices. Many
engineers and product designers want to take advantage of the
same mobile, social, and cloud technologies in their work that
they use at home.
Take, for example, a complex body of data like a video. It doesnt
seem right that one can record a video on a smartphone, store it
in a cloud-based hosting service and watch that service use facial
recognition technology to identify friends. Along with other
videos, it can be sorted by the encoded GPS coordinates and sent
to one or more social media sites where friends and strangers can
view it, edit it, and pass it along. Meanwhile back at work that
same fluid, creative facility with product development content is
completely lacking.
Product development is based on a set of software tools and
methods to automate existing processes. This automation has
improved each of the six steps of product development:
Concept engineering: translating customer requirements
into a product idea
Product design: design, engineering, and documentation of
the product idea

Social: On-demand

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Digital validation: simulation and analysis of a virtual

version of the product

The Next Generation of PDM

Manufacturing and assembly: using physical and digital

tools to build the product
Physical test and validation: Final testing before shipment
Ongoing engineering: using downstream feedback for
continual improvement or to design the next generation

New tools + old methods =

automated inefficiency

Unfortunately, the improvements have done little to reinvent the

process as a whole. It is a case of paper on glassprocesses
originally done at a desk on paper are now done at a desk on a
computer. Each step in the product development cycle is
automated, but there is little if any synergy gained beyond
automation of the individual steps.
There is one product development discipline taking advantage of
these new technologies: software engineering. Workflow has
changed drastically in software development in recent years.
There is reuse, interaction, collaboration, open access, and
gathering knowledge from many sources. These new
developments have created new product development velocity in
the software industry.
Here, we contend a similar workflow revolution can come to
physical product developmentif the individuals, companies, and
supply chains involved will embrace the new.

The New Pillars of Product Development

It is common in software to call a set of related technologies a
stack. For example, the World Wide Web is based on LAMP: Linux,
Apache, MySQL, and Perl (or Python or PHP). All four are required,
with each technology foundational to the one following. CAMS
technologies do not share such defining inter-dependencies. A
better visual analogy than a stack is a pillar. One pillar is
useful, but limited. When all four pillars are in place and of the
same height, they become capable of holding great weight.

The CAMS technologies are

more like pillars than a
software stack. This
model was created using
another disruptive
product development
technology, 3D printing.

Copyright 2014 Consilia Vektor

It is possible to deploy cloud, analytics, mobile, and social

independently as tactical extensions of an existing product
development environment, but that would be like adding a pillar
to a building after the roof is already up. The CAMS technologies
are capable of replacing the building entirely, transforming a
workflow born of physical processes to one created from scratch
to be digital.

The Next Generation of PDM

In both consumer and enterprise operations new CAMS-based

products are transforming processes and disrupting industries,
not simply providing additional automation of existing tasks. Two
quick examples:
Nokia and Motorola once owned the mobile phone market,
but the smartphone revolution almost destroyed both
Kodak invented digital photography, but failed to innovate
further and could not see past its historic connection to
This Nokia cell phone
once ruled the market.

Now CAMS technologies are making their combined presence felt

in product development. Lets look more closely at each

Cloud Computing: Infinite Computation and Infinite

Storage on Demand
Cloud computingis a network computing model; computation
and storage are on a server, not a local device. Unlike previous
generations of remote access computing, cloud computing uses a
process called virtualization, which re-allocate computer
resources so that many servers run one task, or one server runs
many tasks in parallel. The result is delivery of custom computing
experiences on-demand.
The first digital camera,
invented by Kodak.

The on-demand aspect of cloud computing is key; it changes

both the economics of computer use and the ability to optimize
workflow. With cloud computing, the expense of owning and
operating a high-performance computing environment can
become an occasional rental. Computation and storage become
utilities, available for use on demand. Complex software products
that in the past only ran on a workstation can now run from the
cloud for use on a tablet.
The immediate availability of substantial computer powerwhen
combined with the other CAMS technologiescreates
opportunities to replace the discrete steps of product
development with a more fluid and dynamic process.

Cloud computing: Infinite

computational power and
storage on demand.

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Cloud computing has opened the door to as a service delivery

models; the best known is Software as a Service (SaaS). Software is
not purchased but used on a subscription basis; not installed
locally but reached as needed from a cloud-based server. Once
limited to business operations like human resources and

The Next Generation of PDM

customer relationship management, the SaaS model is invading

the technical software industries, including product development.
Analytics: Put Your Data in a River, Not a Vault

With Software as a
Service (SaaS) programs
run where needed.

In many companies, the Windows file manager is the most

complicated data management tool in use. Tech-Clarity senior
analyst Jim Brown says many data management solutions are out
of reach due to cost and lack of IT resources. Companies of all
sizes have significant problems keeping track of versions,
enforcing standards, and sending the right information to the
right place. Attend any CAD user conference, and compare the
number of attendees in sessions on modeling tips and tricks
against those attending sessions on product data management.
You will quickly see how few engineers are attracted to the data
housekeeping details.
In CAMS, Analytics (big data and its use) is not a technology per
se but the companys nourishing water. As such, it is largely
circulated by the other elements. Most business operations turn
their data into visualizations for increased insight. Product
development visualizations are data. The geometry in drawings
and models are precise representations and the embodied
information drives a wide range of downstream processes. In
addition to the geometric information, there is metadatadata
about data (BOMs, tolerances, versioning, sheet sets, simulations,
engineering change notices, tech notes, and much more).

Engineering models are an

incredibly complex form
of data visualization.

All that data quickly adds up to management headaches, even in

the smallest organizations. Data is useless if it not accessible, yet
most people who create the dataengineers and designersare
not thrilled about the work it takes to make all that information
useful to others. Today most people think of a vault when they
think of data. A CAMS view of data/analytics is more like a river.
In a CAMS analysis of product data management, Cloud, Mobile,
and Social technologies unite to unleash new value from your big
dataCAD and otherwiseby circulating it in ways not previously

Mobile: The Productivity Revolution in Your Pocket

In years past, desktop computing set the pace for innovation.
Today, mobile devices drive innovation. In 2011 one CAD
company CEO admitted to me his company felt pushed by the
rapid innovation in mobile technology and high customer demand
for mobile products. But the demand only grows as consumers

Copyright 2014 Consilia Vektor

The Next Generation of PDM


Lagoa is building a webbased product interactive

development platform.

find high utility in mobile devices and want their professional

computer tools to be similarly flexible and innovative.
Mobile is the most challenging CAMS technology to the product
development status quo. The current path from idea to shipping
product is very much an under one roof production mindset.
Existing product development technology mirrors the
organization: hierarchical and iterative, organizing tasks to be
serial and local, not parallel and distributed. By comparison, the
other major user of CAD technologyconstructionhas always
known a distributed workflow based on temporary alignments
and competing hierarchies. A quick survey of CAD-related mobile
apps reveals many more products suited to construction than to
product development.

Social: Automating Relationships as a Strategic Asset

The formal and informal communications between product
development team members is filled with valuable information.
But until social technology came along, it has been difficult to
capture this information and re-use it as a strategic asset.
Social technology can turn the informal flow of information into
usable data. It captures and stores communication, and mediates
interactions between individuals and groups. Social technology
encourages and manages collaborative behavior through

GrabCAD Workbench is an
online collaborative
product development

If the conversation below sounds familiar, then the strategic

value of relationships and communications already makes sense
to you:
Who is Joe W.?
Oh, thats Joe Winooski in the Moline office.
Well, his fan assembly model has lousy documentation, and I
need it for what Im working on.
Joe doesnt use CAD, some intern probably drew that.
Doesnt use CAD whats with that?

CADfaster uses
proprietary algorithms to
create a fast
architectural viewing
experience on iPad.

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Joes like 66 years old and the company doesnt want him to
retire because he knows more about our products than anybody
but he wont touch a computer.
Most product development teams rely on email as their social
media solution, but there are inherent inefficiencies. The flow of
email is separate from the engineering process. If files are
The Next Generation of PDM

attached to messages, there are immediate problems with version

control and security.
Some existing product data management (PDM) products offer
communications utilities, but they are often not used. The process
is viewed as artificial and shunned by engineers. Some third-party
utilities link messages inside the PDM to systems not commonly
used by the product team, such as Supply Chain Management
(SCM) or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) software.

Social networking in PDM

allows team members to
contribute as equals no
matter the location.

Anyone who has used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even

Pinterest knows how social technology can be engaging and
valued in ones personal life. Product development needs social
technology that is engaging yet integral to the process.
It may be too late to capture Joes wealth of knowledge, but going
forward such information should be considered a primary data
asset to be collected right along with the Bill of Materials. Social
media succeeds when it automates on-demand access to
relationship data.

Untethered Product Data Management

Astronauts were limited

when working outside the
spacecraft until
technology to untether
became available in 1984.

The phrase collaborative product data management was in

vogue around the turn of the 21st Century among the leading
CAD/PLM firms. A leading industry advisory firm was once known
as CPDA, Collaborative Product Data Associates. But the term fell
out of favor. Vendors pushed PLM to be the complete solution for
product data among large manufacturers, and it became
increasingly obvious less comprehensive PDM products were still
too complex to catch on with smaller workgroups. Mainstream
CAD vendors continued creating PDM products, like Autodesk
Vault and SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. In our off-the-record
conversations over the years, developers would confess sales were
always below expectations. Most of the time small design and
engineering workgroups continued to share data with email and
manage it at the file level.
Today technology and expectations are changing rapidly.
Engineers want to take advantage of CAMS technology in their
work the same way they do in their personal life. Venture capital
firm Greylock Partners claims product development teams are
looking for new software to match todays expectations.
Engineering and Manufacturing Managers are looking for
different ways to help individual engineers become more
productive, and have internal and external supply chain teams
work together. The key for this transition is creating clear
communication and process around the workflow. The best way to

Copyright 2014 Consilia Vektor

The Next Generation of PDM

manage this is through software that is designed for the new

environment. The word collaboration is being rehabilitated as
this newest wave of technology is embraced.

Young engineers who see

paths everywhere do not
want limits or tethers
defining how they work
with other team members.

Consilia Vektor calls this new approach untethered design, which

we define as the ability to do any product development task from
any screen, in any location, at any time, with resources on
demand, as part of a collaborative team. The phrases on
demand and collaborative are paramount. Each CAMS element
offers an on-demand element that can radically improve product
development and allow effective interaction among team
Cloud enables on-demand computation and storage
Analytics enables on-demand insight
Mobile enables on-demand access
Social enables on-demand collaboration

Finding data

Why untethered? All of these on-demand functions can happen

without boundaries. The centralization of human and computer
resources in product development is a vestigial artifact of a
bygone era. This is not an argument about the economic or social
effects of outsourcing or offshoring. Untethered design
transforms a closed process into an open one. It doesnt matter if
every participant lives in the same city or they are scattered
around the globe. The move to CAMS-based product development
will reap the same benefits achieved in open software
development: rapid iteration, access to talent, lower development
costs, increased quality, greater insight into processes, and much

Solving the Five PDM Pain Points

There are five distinct product data management pain points.
Every PDM product, to some degree, addresses these issues:
Finding data: Once created, product data needs to be easily
accessible. Creating directories and subdirectories quickly
becomes complicated, as newer drawings and models bury older
ones. The data is not only in CAD but also in text documents and
spreadsheets, further complicating the ability to quickly find it
Reusing data

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Reusing data: The parts catalog industry exists because many

pieces of new products can be created from standard parts.
Internally, once a new item is created, reusing it should be a high
The Next Generation of PDM

Sharing data: Once product development involves more than one

person, how information is exchanged becomes either a benefit or
a bottleneck.
Controlling data: Product data is sensitive, one of any companys
most important strategic assets. Any plan for sharing data must
put security first.

Sharing data

Extending data: The value of product data grows when it

becomes useful beyond engineering and manufacturing. A
complete PDM system must take into account those who use but
do not create product data.
Existing PDM systems were designed to support a fragmented
organization where words like stages and silos are apt
descriptions. The idea is to protect information, but too often the
protection becomes a wall that prevents meaningful interaction.
The rise of CAMS on-demand technologies, with their ease of use
and flexible approach to utility, can address the pain points more
efficiently than todays methods:
Finding data: Visual access to drawings and models from any
device makes it easy to locate the right part or assembly. Search
trumps Sort as a primary method of locating information.

Controlling data

Reusing data: Data reuse is a function of data access. When

product information is easily reached using a tablet or cellphone,
it is more likely to be reused.
Sharing data: Access to ideas is the lifeblood of innovation, and
sharing is human nature. The use of social technology supports
communicating and keeps the discussions accessible for future
use. PDM software should make the process of sharing
information within a team as simple as a flick or a drag-anddrop.
Controlling data: Maintaining control of product data is not
antithetical to open access. In an on-demand environment the
control of data is about making sure all the right people have
wide open access (or as much as they need without being
overwhelmed) and none of the wrong people have any access at

Extending data

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Extending data: Cloud storage makes CAD data accessible as

widely as is necessary for the team, and opens up new ways to
share with customers as well as development team members.

The Next Generation of PDM

The New Agenda for Product Data Management

The workflow in most engineering organizations is more about
systems of record than vehicles of innovation. There are hundreds
of thousands of designers and engineers who look at existing PLM
and PDM products and see too much administrative overhead, too
many institutional restrictions, and high cost. They want the
creative utility and flexibility they experience using mobile devices
and social media. They dont buy into the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty,
Doubt) traditional vendors use to scare people away from cloud
and social technologies.
Kinematic studies can now
be done on lightweight

CAMS allows product development to become a system of

engagement, in which everyone can efficiently contribute to the
process and to the outcome. Taking full advantage of CAMS
technology is essential to making progress in the digital economy.
Methods defined in an earlier era need to be carefully reexamined in the light of what can be accomplished today.
Going forward, there is a new agenda for PDM, an agenda based
in openness and on-demand utility. We see five emerging
principles guiding this new agenda.

Visual first

Ford uses a mix of

virtual and physical in
its design.

PMI data, accessible on


Copyright 2014 Consilia Vektor

As we said above, CAD models and drawings are not illustrations

of data, they are the data. Historically CAD data has been too
complex and too proprietary to easily share. Any time a model or
drawing is converted, a break in the information flow occurs. Any
notes or changes to the converted file do not connect back to the
original. Keeping all the data in the original format is an
important part of opening up the information flow.
When CAD models are accessed from a cloud system, enough
computer power is available to deliver models with full fidelity.
Manufacturing engineers, brand managers, and other team
members can all have the data they needs, whether it is a
photorealistic view or the PMI data. Everyone is viewing the same
data source, not one-off conversions no longer connected to the
original. Resisting the tendency to reduce CAD model information
to rows and columns of data keeps it more useful for more
people. Continued access to the original model without
conversion creates a more dynamic workflow.

The Next Generation of PDM

Design anywhere
It does not take enterprise software and custom development to
allow Joe in Genoa and Frank in Frankfurt to work with Allison in
Alabama on a great new idea for a mountain bike gear system.
They dont need a central office, a good internet connection, or a
shared repository for their CAD models. The social media of their
choice facilitate their collaboration.
Manufacturers of all sizes are discovering the value of distributed
product development, defined by the Product and Development
Management Association (PDMA) as:
Allowing design to happen
anywhere allows product
development to benefit
from the best ideas no
matter where they

The separation and optimization of activities performed

during a single product development process (i.e., product
ideation, development and launch) across multiple
geographic locations. These locations may be within a
single corporate entity, within subsidiaries or involve the
use of third parties.
Engineering analysis, simulation, and rendering are all available
from cloud-based solutions. While desktop CAD will be the
primary design tool, many of the elements of product design are
now available in mobile solutions, or the desktop product is
accessible from a mobile device using remote control software.

Open engineering
Open engineering can
accelerate design

The winning jet engine

loading bracket design in
the GE/GrabCAD

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When some in manufacturing hear the term open engineering

they think it means the same as open source software
development no claim of ownership for product information and
anybody can take your information and use it for their own
purposes. Open engineering is different. It is about taking
advantage of web-based communities, knowledge, and tools to
accelerate design and manufacturing processes.
The story of GEs new jet engine bracket has been told so many
times it is becoming a legend. The point is, GE did not know M.
Arie Kurniawan of Indonesia or any of the other 700 engineers
from 56 countries who submitted a design in a contest hosted on
GrabCAD. Instead, GE used the principles of open engineering to
discover an innovative design for a new loading bracket built
using 3D printing, a design the in-house engineers had not
considered. As GEs Steve Liguori said after the contest ended: By
applying GEs scale and expertise to open innovation, we can
continue to grow the ecosystem of designers, engineers, materials
scientists, and other partners to redefine the industry and drive

The Next Generation of PDM


real results for our customers. Another GE executive, Alex

Tapper, was more pointed in his comment: The writing is on the
wall. Evolve quickly. Evolve or you will be disrupted by someone
you dont even see coming.

Customers as collaborators, clients as partners

Bring customers and

manufacturing partners
into the design process

The same tools that allow distributed teams to work together can
be extended. CAMS makes it possible to ask customers for input
on new products, even as the design work is underway. The ability
to show a potential customer a design by sending a web link is
simple and empowering. If that web-based environment can not
only show the model, but keep track of the discussion, render it in
a variety of colors and styles, and run engineering simulations it
broadens the empowerment and increases the speed at which
design can interact with clients and potential customers.
The complex 3D models at the heart of most product
development today have their roots in a technology that required
dedicated hardware and a linear workflow. Today CAMS
technology will not only liberate 3D models by giving them a
lightness of delivery to anyone anywhere, it also supports the
model with new ways to study, store, track, and reuse the
metadata generated by the process. Disperse teams can make
faster decisions, often in a single collaborative session instead of
several review rounds.

The End of Good/Cheap/Fast: Pick Two

In the early days of personal computers, there was a saying about
the buying process: Good, cheap, fast; pick any two. For product
design the equivalent has always been accurate, fast, and cheap.
Any two of the three can be applied to product development, but
not all three.

CAMS technology makes the

old adage good, cheap,
fast: pick any two a
legacy attitude.

Copyright 2014 Consilia Vektor

CAMS technology makes all three now possible. Real-time

collaboration speeds the design process. On-demand access to
CAE tools makes accuracy possible without owning an in-house
copy of the right simulation product(s). Because that access to
high-end engineering resources can be purchased in brief bursts,
development costs can be kept cheap.

The Next Generation of PDM


Make the Serendipity Happen
The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient
operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation
will magnify the inefficiency. Bill Gates
Collaborative workspaces are the new frontier in product development. It is not a formal collaboration
style that says: I did my work, now you do yours. But instead, it is a new way of working with
technology that allows every person to participate when their input can benefit the most and when
interaction can be a synergistic force. The key is sharing. Every bit of information about the product
needs to be sharable at any state in the process. Anything less is an annoyance and a barrier to
Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, and Social are the tools to create a new product development process. One
that fully embraces on-demand capabilities and the re-imagining and re-energizing of product
design and engineering. We are witnessing the early stages of a revolution. Thirty years ago people
were excited by what personal computers could accomplish, but few could have guessed how
widespread the revolution would be. Product data management is at the beginning of a similar
The word serendipity comes from a story about three princes from a land called Serendip. They were
seen as lucky bumblers who somehow tripped onto great discoveries. The moral behind the story is
not about happy accidents, but the state of readiness and wealth of knowledge that makes discovery
possible. Todays Princes of Serendip are those who equip themselves with technology that replaces
archaic, hierarchical workflow with an empowering, sharing platform for creativity and efficiency.
Today CAMS offers us the ability to create the next generation of PDM.

About Consilia Vektor

Consilia Vektor is a research and consulting service for the technical software industry and related
disciplines. Founder and Principal Analyst Randall S. Newton has more than 25 years of experience in
computer-aided design technology as a programmer, marketing consultant, journalist, and business
analyst. From our base in American Pacific Northwest we roam the world virtually and physically to
track and describe the trends shaping the Digital Epoch.

Consilia Vektor
PO Box 1647
Tonasket, WA 98855 USA

Copyright 2014 Consilia Vektor

The Next Generation of PDM